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Only You Can Save Mankind (Johnny Maxwell, #1)
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Only You Can Save Mankind (Johnny Maxwell #1)

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  9,735 Ratings  ·  359 Reviews
It's just a game . . . isn't it?

The alien spaceship is in his sights. His finger is on the Fire button. Johnny Maxwell is about to set the new high score on the computer game Only You Can Save Mankind.

Suddenly, a message appears:
We wish to talk. We surrender.

But the aliens aren't supposed to surrender--they're supposed to die!
Kindle Edition, 242 pages
Published (first published 1992)
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MRS EMMA L GREGORY It sounds like you're trying to avoid reading the book. You probably won't find anything specific, other than references to funny things happening…moreIt sounds like you're trying to avoid reading the book. You probably won't find anything specific, other than references to funny things happening around Johnny.

It's a fun book, especially if you were around for early home computers in the 80s.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Eddie Owens
So this is Terry Pratchett outside of Discworld.

It was ok, but I think it was a short story stretched into a book.

The big theme of war being real and not a game was a bit preachy, but maybe that's because it's aimed at the YA audience.

Then the author touches on universal problems faced by kids everywhere: parents on the verge of a break up, trying to fit in with the other kids, surviving in the inner city, etc. But since these are not the main story, he never goes anywhere with them.

I wasn't en
Better with age.

Older Review
Considering the popularity of first person shooters, this book is still very timely. It's Pratchett, it's funny and delivers a message. Kristi is the protype of Hermonie. Enjoyable.

A really good what if type of a story, especially if you ever played Space Invaders. There are a couple questions concerning the aliens and the game that Pratchett doesn't answer.
Apr 21, 2012 Mignon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great story by Pratchett. He must wake up every morning and think, "What should I make fun of today?" And then he proceeds with mockery while sneaking in valuable social insights. This book is shorter than most of his other books, but it made for great audiobook listening on a four-hour road trip.
From School Library Journal
Johnny Maxwell, 12, thinks he's a loser. People don't seem to notice him, his parents are threatening to split up, and he's not very good at the shoot-up-the-bad-guys computer games that he and his friends are always playing. But after his hacker buddy, Wobbler, gives him an illegal copy of Only You Can Save Mankind, strange things happen. The captain of the alien fleet that Johnny is supposed to shoot up surrenders to him–unheard of in a computer game–and soon after t
Jan 05, 2014 Lea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, kids
This book was how Terry Pratchett dealt with the first gulf war, I think. I wish I had read it when I was a kid and images of that war were broadcast over my TV screen, interrupting my favorite television shows and occupying the conversation of adults. The main character in the book, Johnny, cared a bit more than I did, but felt basically the same-- these images carried no meaning, as bland and removed from life as an old, out of date video game.
There's one hugely funny bit where Johnny defines
Jan 13, 2015 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I picked up this book to read something short and light in between another books. Oh, and because it’s Terry Pratchett.

I was surprised by this book. It’s definitely short but not as light as I was expecting. Even the title of the book is not how it seems. You don’t need to save mankind from aliens. You need to save mankind from…well, mankind.
Only You Can Save Mankind is about war and Johnny Maxwell coping with it. It’s about the difference between reality and a dream. Or, to be more precise, it
Nov 04, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Pratchett's main productions are Fantasy he occasionally tinkered in the scifi genre. This is the first part of a trilogy , based around a weird kid called Johnny Maxwell.
The book is fun and quite cheeky and still has the common Pratchett approach of turning things on their head to make you see things differently. In this case he completely reverses the basic concepts of an Alien shooter computer game, starting with the premise that the Aliens don't want to die and decide to surrender and
Mike (the Paladin)
Okay, I give this book a 3...sort of. I like Sir Terry's writing. He's sharp and can generally make a sharp quip with a dull point. This book isn't quite so good.

Oh, there are some laughs and the plot while not totally new (that the "world inside games is real in it's own way") is a good one. It opens with a cute idea. The young man playing a new computer game is busy fighting his way through the "enemy alien fleet", he's made it to the huge mother-ship...and they surrender. He gets text on his
Allen Holt
Apr 13, 2015 Allen Holt rated it really liked it
A surprising book that left me with a tremendous sense of appreciation for Pratchett's ability to inject seemingly silly or small stories with heart and message. Appropriate reading for teens and adults, like most of Pratchett's work, I'd heartily recommend this quick read to anyone.

The book does an effective job of portraying the early 90s computer gamers. I was especially taken by the nostalgia of it all as I myself was roughly Johnny's age during that first Iraq war and often in front of a co
Dec 10, 2012 Darla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Genre:Children's fiction) Low 3 stars. While this is definitely not Pratchett's strongest offering, it did make for an enjoyable read with some astute observations about the human race. Not earth shattering, but it was entertaining and I will probably read the next one in the series.

12 year old Johnny Maxwell is surrounded by conflict. Everyday on the news, they show pictures from the Gulf War(the first one), with bombs dropping on homes and buildings and interviews with top government and mili
Angel 一匹狼
You cannot go wrong with Terry Pratchett. "Only You Can Save Mankind" is a very simple book, a book for teenagers that can be enjoyed by everyone, with his trademark sharp and witty comments about humanity and society.

Johnny is playing the video game 'Only You Can Save Mankind'. But the aliens in the game do not seem to want to fight. They have just surrendered! Why? How can random bits of 1 and 0's do not want to do their job? What will Johnny do? Keep shooting or trying to help the aliens to g
Jan 19, 2017 Chloe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-kept
A really interesting concept! This is for younger readers but I can see the classic Pratchett humour and deeper meaning. This book manages to make some thoughtful points about war while being a light-hearted story about video game aliens. It was a fun and easy read and Terry successfully used his typical style to create a children's book that's pretty original. I really enjoyed reading it! The message actually made me pretty emotional, some lovely quotes in there.
Nov 22, 2014 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: terry Pratchett fans
Recommended to Angie by: no one
Even though this is a children's book it was still enjoyable to read and this is probably because its still a terry Pratchett novel. The book follows the character Johnny who instead of killing the aliens in his computer game accepts their surrender. He's joined by his friends and gets help in game by sigourney a kick ass girl. Lots of fun Pratchett style follows. This would be perfect for your younger children as well.
Dec 26, 2014 Cait rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure if I would enjoy this but I really did.

Kind of dated in a way but I remember those sorts of computer games.

Liked the character of Johnny.

Classic Terry Pratchett humour, lots of funny bits and very cleverly written.

Looking forward to reading the other books in the series.
Dec 26, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apparently Goodreads didn't save my review... The short version: I love this book. It's a quick read. Give it a try!
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Sci-fi drama from Terry Pratchett.

This is not my cup of tea.
Jenny Andersson
Feb 09, 2016 Jenny Andersson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love Pratchett's writing! Really easy to get in to!
Got My Book
Nov 05, 2016 Got My Book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Also posted on my blog Got My Book.

A fun little MG Paranormal SF that may require some explanation of history.

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett, read by Richard Mitchley, published by Random House Audio (2011) / Length: 4 hrs 11 min (this is the Unabridged version)

This is Book #1 of the "Johnny Maxwell" trilogy. All of them are available on audio.

Like most Pratchett book, this one is a pleasure to read for people who love interesting characters.

Note: I
Jan 08, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who else indeed? And that's really the question, isn't it? The old saw says that one person can make a difference, but no one ever thinks that it's them so no one does anything. And no difference is ever made. That's what the question on the cover of the book points out, if not you, then who else will?

In this case, Johnny is that one person, one out of thousands, but the only one who listens and takes on the responsibility of trying to do something. He has no power in the "real" world; his paren
Cristina Boncea
Rating-ul ar fi 2.5.

Cartea ar fi în esență legată de Războiul din Golf, despre care eu nu știu nimic. Mai departe, ne spune cum ar trebui să luăm războaiele în serios, căci ele nu sunt doar niște jocuri sau imagini pe ecranul televizorului. Și poate că nu se limitează la războaie...

Mi s-a părut destul de greu de citit, deși a avut umorul specific lui Terry Pratchett. Personajul principal este Johnny Maxwell, un copil de 12 ani care joacă un joc video numit Doar Tu Poți Salva Omenirea. Acolo, per
Paul Wardman
Apr 18, 2015 Paul Wardman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times a young adult book can fall into the trap of dumbing down the content, adding a love triangle (though that is usually more common in teen books) or talking down to its audience. Luckily the only real difference between an "adult" and "YA" novel is it has chapters and sometimes a younger protagonist.
The basis premis of the book, the aliens you're supposed to fight in a computer game surrender and ask you to save them, is interesting and a good one. The undertones are utterly brilliant.
Ondřej Puczok
Dec 17, 2016 Ondřej Puczok rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jednodenní četba a zároveň velké nadšení. Od Pratchetta jsem četl úplně všechno. Včetně různých kuchařek a vystřihovánek. Tak mě překvapuje, že si nepamatuju příběh této knihy. Ale kdo ví, má paměť je v tomto velmi podivná... Každopádně super. Humor, sci-fi, dobrodružství, odkazy na všechno možné a zároveň několik velmi těžkých témat od války po rodinné problémy. A to vše podané velmi lehce a jakoby mimochodem. Ani jsem to od této malinké knížky nečekal...

EDIT: Už vím, co mi to připomíná. Pratch
May 09, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: terry-pratchett
Pratchett's tinkering in the SciFi genre has created another brilliant read. 'Only You Can Save Mankind' is the first part the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, based around a 12 year old boy called Johnny Maxwell.

Only You Can Save Mankind is based around a computer game where the aliens no longer wish to be shot and surrender to Johnny, claiming their rights written in the Geneva convention.

The book is a fun, cheeky and overall entertaining read and Pratchett once again has been able to write in a style
Laura Luna
"Sólo tú puedes salvar a la humanidad" es esa novela que recomendaría a los niños y adolescentes que aborrecen la lectura por los libros que les obligan a leer en el colegio. Es una historia adictiva, ligera, llena del humor mordaz característico de Terry que, además, conecta muy bien con la subcultura jugona. Hace reflexionar, además, sobre temas como el sexismo, la marginación social y la autoestima. Me encanta cómo hace que un videojuego rompa la cuarta barrera e invite al héroe a plantearse ...more
Altivo Overo
Oct 30, 2014 Altivo Overo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially gamers
One could wish that a lot of "gamers" would read this and take it to heart. While the story is told in a humorous manner, it nonetheless makes the reader think "what if..." What if the game were real? What if the "aliens" were really people and they really died and stayed dead when you shoot them?

Johnny Maxwell finds himself confronted with this very situation, and has to figure a way out of it. Without any spoilers, and much to his (and Pratchett's) credit, he does in the end. But in order to d
Nov 03, 2012 Sheherazahde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teenagers
A bit dated, but so is anything written nowadays that includes computers.

The issues are not so dated. Johnny's parents are breaking up, there is war going on far away, there is poverty and racism. Johnny just wants to do the right thing in a complicated world.

The major theme of the book is how we treat war like a game when we shouldn't because it involves real people's lives. On the other hand having rules for war keeps us from being the worst that we can be. We are complicated like that. John
Oct 01, 2015 Hilma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So.. first I wasn't sure if I would give it four or five stars but I gave it four in the end just because it took me a while to really get "stuck" in the book, if you know what I mean. All in all this was a really fun book to read. Not just because it was humorous but mostly because I have never read anything like it before. And do you know how some books just kind of makes you feel like a child again? This book did that for me. I don't really know why, but it did. I will definitely be reading m ...more
Sep 24, 2016 Chip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're a Pratchett fan or just discovering him, I think you'll find this book an enjoyable read. Terry has an wonderful way of blending his humor into any type of story he writes. As a person who recently read Cline's Armada, this was eerie familiar (even though this was written first) yet better. Since it's a YA, the characters aren't severely deep, but the variety of them along with a fast engaging story will have you ripping through the pages with a big smile.
Apr 03, 2015 Nara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I feel like this is one of those books that reads like a YA/MG book, but is actually one which deals with a lot of thought provoking, deeper issues. A bit like the way The Little Prince is a "childrens" book with themes that are more relevant and identifiable as an adult.

Still, I had some trouble with suspension of disbelief because so many things were left unexplained. Maybe in the sequel.

Overall: 7/10
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 2/5
Jan 01, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2016
This was so cool! A game, an old game with starships and all. And then, it turns a bit more realistic than Johnny would've liked.
I loved the story, is very simple, but it was definitely original, as I would expect from Pratchett. The ScreeWees are fun, although not the brightest ones in combat. And the end, God I loved it. :D
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Only You Can Save Mankind 3 12 Aug 23, 2015 08:15PM  
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Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel,
More about Terry Pratchett...

Other Books in the Series

Johnny Maxwell (3 books)
  • Johnny and the Dead (Johnny Maxwell, #2)
  • Johnny and the Bomb (Johnny Maxwell, #3)

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“If Not You, Who Else?” 57 likes
“If you were away from home, you had to use a phone attached by a wire to the wall. It was terrible.” 0 likes
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